Eat Your Vegetables (Before They Eat You!): Good Plants / Bad Plants in Fiction and Culture - MLA 2013 (3-6 January, Boston)

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Human beings have always lived in a state of ecological, nutritional, and psychological dependence on plants, yet the attitudes toward plant life expressed in the imaginative literature of Western culture are ambivalent. In the nineteenth century, Emerson's delight in "the suggestion of an occult relationship between man and vegetable" finds its dark echo in Hawthorne's "Rappaccini's Daughter," in which the loveliness of the mad scientist's garden conceals a latent threat to human personhood. The duality in the symbolic character of vegetation persists throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries, influencing the depiction of flowers and plants in modernist literature, taking strange postmodern forms in comic book and science fiction scenarios, and informing the public discourses on everything from energy and health to genetics and ontology. This panel seeks papers that examine the manner in which fictional texts and other cultural products of the romantic, modernist, and postmodern period express the multifaceted relationship between industrial Western culture and the vegetable kingdom.
Possible paper topics may include, but are not limited to,
The representation of plants, trees, flowers, and fruit in the art or literature of romanticism, modernism, and/or postmodernism;
The fear of vegetation expressed in "killer plant" narratives;
Representations of human-plant hybrid creatures in myth and fiction;
The iconography of "wholesome" fruits and vegetables in the rhetoric of the vegan, organic, and whole foods movements;
Botanical metaphors as they have been employed in extra-literary discourses such as genealogy, medicine, and philosophy;
The iconography of plant-human relations as represented in the discourses of green energy, drug policy, sustainability, etc.;
The manner in which Plant Studies may intersect with and contribute to other sub-disciplines of Cultural Studies.
Please submit 300-400 word abstracts to Randy Laist at by March 20, 2012.